I’m back! So I thought I’d come back with a bang on, and a run away from, the door article focused on one of the country’s top outfits, cos I can. Imma jump straight to it and address this head on.
As a player that has been in the league for coming on my 12th year and seen the London Warriors win 6 (out of 11) in that time, they are arguably the ‘best’ performers in that period. I have played for a team that has almost tracked their progress, albeit a year or two behind for most of it, and that gap has only increased due to the warriors ability and attitude to find a way to stay competitive and forward their ambitions by any means necessary on and off the field.
Focusing only on this year alone, I have played them against them twice and felt the sheer force of what they bring to the table in-game. Off the field I have felt the force of their ability to coax and appeal to talent from around the league to come over and bolster their ranks to bolster a depth chart, in most positions, a good 6man deep and then some. Factor in sheer ability and versatility of their athletes and that number could probably double in most roles (barring kickers, QB’s and Returners possibly). BUT…when it comes to the best TEAM I’ve faced this year, I can easily shout two teams that I would put ahead of them by virtue of sheer heart, graft and laying it down in this sport of so many components that is only enhanced and amplified by true TEAM SPIRIT.
Firstly I have to mention…the Bristol Aztecs. I’m biased as I have had the pleasure of calling this team my bogey team by virtue of the team I play for and their ability to always turn up against us over the last 5 or so years. Having started out as an outfit that weren’t factored in as a threat and considered the ‘low-bar pacesetters’, they currently have a crop of athletes that, in stature, would look undersized stood next to the 2019 U19 champs and are probably the smallest physically in the Prem South. But they have a monster spirit, gargantuan knowledge and level of application that is unrivalled by virtue of their close ties with the Bristol Academy and probably down to also having a closely associated team in the Bristol Apache. I’m only talking from witnessing the way they went about their business in games against my team showing unity, hunger and a togetherness even when the team were in the face of being outnumbered and out bodied they showed some serious fight and a lot of class (pun intended).
They have some extremely talented individuals in key positions but they also have an evident underlying culture of graft, fight and fight some more. That mentality across the board means they will always be in games and can only get stronger if they stay together in the coming year(s).
Secondly but arguable the best TEAM around – The Tamworth Phoenix…GO NIX!!!!
This northern powerhouse endured a season of ups, downs, lefts, rights, more downs and more ups as the Northern Premiership Pacesetters. Week on week the results came in and drew gasps from the southern fandom and people all around that associated the teams name with the giant killers from the north and the marauders London slayers of 2017 (bend the knee to those slick helmets!). Having watched them in the semi-finals against London Blitz this year kinda expecting them to cause an upset, I was impressed to see them fight tooth and nail on a day where they were less than impressive. Again, truly great teams can have bad days and still find a way. Then to take two weeks away from that flat showing and completely overhaul their approach and productivity stepping up to duke it out with the Goliath’s in Warriors, was wild and way above the expectations of most. But the key people within the organisation that put the work in to get the TEAM ready to fight it out any given Sunday style, deserve some major credit for making a respectable attempt at another underdog-day final.
Every phase of play looked supercharged, the score and their ability to score alone was great to see. Their defence fought valiantly against a team you can consider unstoppable, their special teams were exactly that, truly special recovering not one but two onside kicks. That is near on, if not an actual, a Britbowl record since I’ve been around.
So yeah, I stand by the article title as you can look at the nature of Warriors ‘image and ethos’ of going Dark. It’s a badly hidden secret that the warriors keep their cards close to their chest and their hand stacked with power cards by virtue of their team culture and operating policies. They are forward thinking and give off a strong scent of nonchalance knowing they are working at a privileged level and intend to stay there.
Haters gonna hate and some will knock their hustle but I’m speaking purely from first hand encounters and insights gained over the years that have always led me to believe that to stop this Steam-train of an organisation its gonna take a TEAM that, on and off the field, has depth, strength, talent and fight to name but a few factors that create the needed X-factor a la Madden 20!!!
With Warriors in a position where they could potentially field 2 teams worth of talent quite easily and arguably make a div 1 final and prem final simultaneously at first time of asking. It begs the question, ‘Is their their Abramovich-Chelsea-esque policy, of coaxing and hoarding talent (but not loaning anyone out!) over the years, hurting leagues development considering a large contingent of these recruits come from other teams?!
Hypothetically speaking, imagine if you had to declare your game day depth chart with only 3 (or a limited number) slots per position or limited players per unit. This would no doubt mean that roster depths dynamic would be impacted. If teams that are stacked with able bodies knew they could only name 10 total lineman (O and D) for each game, having a roster stacked with say 20+ Starter worthy lineman wouldn’t work as the talented guys would have to find a team where they make the featured 10 week in week out. The featured 10 on each team would have to interchange in adverse times and improve their ability both sides of the ball, as well as fitness etc. and the cat would be amongst the pigeons. This is one random, flippant thought seed I’ve sown to potentially plant a method of bring the level of the game up, some might say it would potentially stifle and potentially have adverse effects….who knows??? But I’m just putting it out there…
The best performing team in the country is a superpower when it comes to games, by virtue of its sheer size in number, ability and justified reputation. I came up against 6-8 different guys in the trenches and was still told guys were missing? I watched a final where they had a ‘stable’ full of thoroughbred running backs, not to mention back-ups that could step in behind them that either ply their trade in other positions or on special teams and that can be said for all positions. Their kicker that could probably be a starting receiver for most teams in the country and was out their making plays in the final while holding it down off the Tee and off the Turf.
Again, don’t forget the usual caveat of this being one mans’ opinion and a conversation provoking piece. So please hit me up, comment or even request me to write about something else or more on the state of Britball as I’m all game and have time over the next few weeks especially to ride the wave of thoughts around the league.
S/o the Champs, The London Warriors for getting it done, raising the bar and making everyone know that the bar will not drop any time soon. If the Britball trophy is to find a new home any time soon it will take a serious TEAM and sprinklings of enough polished talent to come anywhere near getting it done.
Aka Mr Caveat*